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(b Haarlem, c.1613; bur. Amsterdam, 16 Dec. 1670). Dutch portrait painter, active in Amsterdam. In the 1640s he took over from Rembrandt as the most popular portraitist in the city, his detailed, tasteful, and slightly flattering likenesses appealing more to the fashionable burghers than the master's work, which was becoming more individual and introspective. Van der Helst was highly influential during his lifetime. For example, Rembrandt's talented pupils Bol and Flinck abandoned the style of their master in order to follow his more popular manner. His reputation endured into the next century and as late as 1781 Reynolds wrote that his Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster (1648, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) ‘is, perhaps, the first picture of portraits in the world’, adding that it as far exceeded his expectations as Rembrandt's Night Watch fell below them.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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